Auckland: Comparative luxury on rugged Hillary Trail

By Wayne Thompson

The Craw Homestead is solar-powered, has a shower and sleeps up to six. Photo / Supplied
The Craw Homestead is solar-powered, has a shower and sleeps up to six. Photo / Supplied

A touch of luxury is being offered for trampers on the rugged Auckland coastal trail bearing the name of explorer Sir Edmund Hillary.

Billed as an unguided "wilderness experience" where you carry your tent, sleeping bag and enough food to last the four-day trek, the trail stretches along the west coast uphill and downhill for 70km.

However, Auckland Regional Parks has thrown in a sweetener for those who prefer to hear the sound of rain on a tin roof instead of tent fabric.

It has opened the doors of a comfortable homestead at Anawhata - near the Craw Campsite, a grassy clearing in the bush created for night four of the trail.

This camp's "modcons" extend to only a composting toilet and a small cooking shelter.

After a $200,000 renovation, the adjacent three-bedroom house offers the comparative luxury of a shower, fridge and gas cooker.

The spirit of roughing it is not completely gone. Parties of up to six still need to bring their sleeping bags - and, in this solar-powered house, a torch for reading at night.

"It's next door to a Hillary Track campsite so provides an opportunity for a comfortable bed instead of pitching a tent," said Auckland Council parks and heritage chairwoman Sandra Coney.

"It's a central stepping off place for Piha or Bethells-Te Henga."

The house was bought as part of park extensions in the late 1980s.

From the verandah are wide views of the bush and hills that have revegetated after being harvested for kauri 80 years ago.

A track leads to a lookout deck with views over Piha and Lion Rock.

Ms Coney said the house joins 16 in the "Bach Escapes" network in regional parks available for the public to book.

Similar to other parks cottages in West Auckland, the Craw Homestead costs $128 a night to rent in the peak season and $85 off peak.

"The baches have been an outstanding success for the council and we are trying to bring more on stream," said Ms Coney.

The winding gravel road to Anawhata passes the access to Whites Beach where Sir Edmund Hillary and his family had a bach.

At the opening of the Hillary Trail two years ago, his family recalled that Sir Edmund went there to prepare for his expeditions, marching the black sands of the surf beaches of Piha, attacking the rocks at the southern end and then returning to Anawhata.

FURTHER INFORMATION

The Craw Homestead at Anawhata sleeps a maximum of six people and costs $128 a night to rent in the peak season (October to May, plus all Friday and Saturday nights and public holidays) and $85 off peak (weekdays June to September).

- NZ Herald

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